Practicing happiness day 01

It’s round two, folks! I’m back, doubly convicted of the benefits that just feeling better brings, over and against my drive to understand or problem solve or search for answers.

I’ve been confused, because thinking a lot gives me a sense of coherence and coherence feels good.

But in hindsight the most beneficial thing I’ve done in the past few months was my happiness challenge and related series where I simply focused on feeling better moment-by-moment and thought-by-thought.

It’s simple: if you only focus on things that feel better then eventually everything will feel better. It’s kinda foolproof and I’m pretty sure other breakthroughs that have happened are due to this deceptively humble practice.

Okay, I give up. Let me do this again. I’m going to focus on what feels better, focus in ways that feel better, look (more gently than before) for better feeling thoughts.

What is self-esteem?

Someone asked me recently about self-esteem and I admit I fudged it.

My answer was along the lines of self-efficacy…which is more about recognising that I’m good at certain things.

So what’s self-esteem then?

I’ve been thinking it over and I’ve read plenty about it before, but self-esteem has to be more than just words.

Self-esteem isn’t about your skills, talents, or other qualities, but your intrinsic value. Specifically, it’s feeling good about yourself for no f***ing reason whatsoever other than…you’re you, and it feels better this way, and it makes everything easier and more enjoyable.

Baseless, irrational, and subjective…in a good way!

That’s what really threw me about self-esteem. I grew up thinking we were supposed to value objectivity and truth and give reasons for what we believe and reasons for how we feel.

But if you apply those criteria to how you feel about yourself…you’re pretty much screwed because there’s no objective basis for feeling good about yourself. You either already feel good, in which case you’re merely gilding the lily with fresh excuses to proclaim your wondrous existence; or you already feel crap, and there is nothing on earth that will overcome your crappy feelings and convince you to be otherwise.

Self-esteem is not objective. And yet it is vital and life changing, because if you can find a way to feel good without reason then that good feeling goes before you like a holy aura and changes everything around you.

If you can find a way to feel good without reason, then everything feels good the moment it comes into your presence.

Find a way to feel good without reason? More like remember the good feelings you’ve already had, feelings you probably crushed or put away because they seemed unreasonable at the time, as if you were going to be graded on the realism of your good mood.

That’s what self-esteem means to me. It’s not about holding myself in high regard, that’s just how people try to explain why they let themselves feel good for no reason. I prefer to see it as acknowledging that there’s no reason to feel this good, so there’s no reason not to. Life isn’t waiting on me to accomplish something that justifies these good feelings. If anything it’s the other way around.

How to do it

I don’t know if a “how to” will work, but for me my good feelings were all tied up with the fantasy novels and superhero movies and anime and manga that inspired me so much. Feelings of freedom and empowerment and adventure and excitement, love and authenticity and, yeah, worth, and the sheer joy of the characters at the height of their powers.

These are the things that speak to me. Why the hell shouldn’t I use them? Why shouldn’t I take those good feelings and carry them with me? Because I’m old enough now to know that none of the people with “strong” self-esteem I’ve met in the past had any real justification for how they felt. There was not an iota of considered, objective thought behind those people’s bias in favour of their own value. They just felt good because they’d felt good more often than not in their young lives and knew nothing else.

What I’m getting at is that we may not have had that foundation, but we did have inspiration and we still do. Knowing that we create our reality, how we feel is far more important than we ever knew, and it now makes complete sense that every time we put aside those good feelings we delayed their fruition into something more.

No, we had no reason to feel that good, but if we do it anyway, indulge in those wonderful feelings of freedom and empowerment, everything must give way to that.

 

 

 

 

Feeling good is enlightenment

I used to think enlightenment was something magical, mysterious, and transformative. Something conferred or earned through practice or through the wisdom of sudden realisation.

But I’m finally accepting that enlightenment is just deliberately feeling good, feeling better for the sake of feeling better.

What I missed

It’s not that I misunderstood per se, but I too quickly seized on enlightenment as the solution to my problems, something that would fulfil what I lacked.

So my understanding of enlightenment was an extrapolation from my focus on “lack”. It was like a vague and mysterious shadow, a promise of relief from, freedom from unwanted conditions.

But that meant my idea of enlightenment was just another action pathway: “I’ll feel better if I get this”.

Actual enlightenment

Actual enlightenment is just recognising that we can deliberately focus and feel better, and our circumstances follow from this focus, not the other way around.

There’s no transformation to undergo. Enlightenment and delusion exist on a continuum, just like joy and sorrow.

Some people say that once enlightened you can never be deluded again, and I don’t know for sure what they mean. It’s not as though we would want to be deluded again, so perhaps what they mean is that once you are practiced enough at deliberately feeling good, you won’t suddenly forget and begin unconsciously feeling terrible.

For where I’m at, it’s enough – more than enough – to see that I was chasing the promise of fulfilment while reinforcing a sense of lack. That’s why feeling better was hitherto still not enough for me, and why I sabotaged my own happiness for the sake of something “more”.

Letting go 03: problem-minded

Manifestations cannot make us feel bad, only thoughts can. So what thoughts am I thinking that make me feel bad occasionally?

I asked for clarity and the answer I received is that my whole outlook is problem-minded. I look at life as a problem I have to solve, and everything hinges on how well I solve it.

That’s a really familiar theme for me: many important subjects have had this exact same feel of “gotta keep working on it!”

And with this in mind I remember when it began. As a teenager I was simultaneously depressed and looking for something that would give me meaning, happiness, and belonging. My friends and peers all seemed to be enjoying life in ways that didn’t appeal to me.

Then one day I found a mysterious book that claimed “enjoying life” was a distraction and folly; that real meaning and happiness and fulfilment lay in spiritual awakening, and the sooner we set out on that path the better.

Finding spiritual truth, enlightenment, and closeness to God became my private obsession, but I approached it as a problem to be solved, the problem to be solved if life is to have any value or meaning whatsoever.

Life became synonymous with this struggle.

But the only reason you want that…

As with any other desire, I can now agree that the only reason I wanted to solve the problem of life was that I thought I would feel better in solving it.

And as the Abraham-Hicks teachings have shown me, I can feel that good already. Because even “solving the problem of life” is a manifestation, and it’s not manifestations that make us feel good, it’s our thoughts.

In setting up life as a problem to solve, I made “uphill struggle” part of my core experience. I gave momentum to the thought that life has a hidden truth that must be discovered and only the diligent and unrelenting will find it.

I told myself I was virtuous for ignoring and devaluing material possessions and worldly experiences, when really I was severely depressed and probably not strongly inclined to such things by temperament.

Find the feeling place

What do I really want? Ultimately I want to feel good. That’s really important to me. It always has been, but I used to think feeling good had to be earned or justified somehow.

Spiritual enlightenment is just about feeling good, knowing how to feel good, and doing it consistently. People describe different paths and methods and practices but I think those are just each person’s “how I learned to feel good” story.

I don’t have to solve any problems. There are no problems to solve unless I make them. Accepting this, it’s possible for me to simply walk through that door to a good feeling place…no password, no key, no code to decipher to merit entry.

I’ve been banging on that door for twenty something years, but it was always open and always will be for us all.

Your reality maps your inner world

The things in life you most love or dread are reflections of those emotions within you. And their proximity and availability in your outer world mirrors their emotional proximity within you.

If there’s something you strongly desire but can’t seem to get, this apparent distance represents your own emotional distance from feeling happy in yourself.

Going home

If for example you feel that a new home would make you happy, but then you feel miserable because it seems unaffordable, or frustrated because you can’t find a place that suits you, then your life is demonstrating your own practiced emotional distance from that happiness.

It means that you are practicing misery or frustration more than you are practicing happiness.

Emotional wormholes

That heading sounds kinda gross, but I’m thinking of the standard sci-fi trope of a wormhole or Einstein-Rosen bridge that bends space-time itself to join two disparate points.

Is the shortest distance between two points a straight line? Not if you can bend the sheet of paper to connect the dots directly.

Changing your reality by changing your emotions is an analogous “shortcut”. If it’s your own practice of frustration or disappointment that keeps bringing you frustrating or disappointing experiences, then the quickest way to change is not by combating your external circumstances but by changing how you feel.

Find the feeling place

The crux of the Abraham-Hicks teaching is that we can learn to practice these good feelings just by focusing our thoughts, or meditating to let go of thoughts.

If we can find happiness within ourselves without changing external circumstances, then our external circumstances will inevitably change and more importantly we will feel happy along the way.

What if home were magic?

Circumstances don’t create our reality; it’s our own thoughts and focus that creates our reality.

Where the heart is

Home has been a touchy subject for me. We’re a family of four living in a small unit. We would love more space. We would love a beautiful, wonderful, magical home.

But to say that housing and land are too expensive is beside the point. We create our reality through our thoughts and focus. If I feel bad about the subject of home that’s not a market issue, it’s a focus issue.

The cost of housing represents something to me: the feeling of distance from my ideal, the sense that a beautiful home is unattainable. Money signifies the gap between where I am and where I want to be.

Old thoughts

The truth is that home hadn’t felt magical, beautiful, wonderful or magnificent for many years. Not since we left our old home to come to this city when I was five.

Home lacked those qualities. No, I lacked those feelings about home. Seventeen years I practiced noticing the absence of magic, excitement and adventure in that house.

That’s why my ideal home has felt distant. Not because of money but because of the practiced thought that home is bland and utilitarian, oppressive, boring and ugly.

These thoughts have gotten in the way of my desire for a beautiful, magical, wonderful, magnificent home. I’ve had this desire for a long, long time, but I shot it down over and over with thoughts of insufficiency and lack.

My practiced negative thoughts stopped me from even feeling good about home. But now my positive thoughts have enough momentum that I can change how I think and feel on subjects like this.

Changing direction

I can enjoy finding good-feeling thoughts about home purely for the sake of feeling good. Home can feel like magic right now if I stop resisting it.

There are so many positive aspects to where we live now, enough to keep me flooded with appreciation and joy all the time.

Our home is already beautiful, magical, and wonderful. It already has so much space. We’ve already made a delightful home out of this unit, and it is entirely up to us to appreciate it right now.

Receiving blessings

In the Abraham-Hicks teachings it is often said that the only reason we want anything in life is because we think we will feel better in the having of it.

The two components of the teaching are first that we can feel good right now just by focusing on those things we want, and second that by feeling good we open ourselves to receive from God the things we have already asked for.

But the whole point is to feel good regardless, and by appreciating what we already have, we can arrive at such a state of alignment that we no longer feel any lack or insufficiency.

By focusing on my desires for a wondrous home and letting go of my resistance, I am already there. I feel in my heart the beauty and abundance I’ve longed for, and where I sit right now is perfection.

Love yourself

One of the hardest experiences as a child is to realise there’s no love, help, or comfort coming, and that you must somehow get by without it.

We build resilient methods of getting by, but the stronger they are, the longer we will endure without relief.

As adults we have the opportunity to learn how to love, soothe, and comfort ourselves. We can learn to reignite the flames that were extinguished long ago. And then we can finally put down the massive burden of having to live life on empty.

Learning to love yourself heals wounds where survival strategies just numb the pain.

And loving yourself can be so much easier when you know it’s not just you, but also a loving God, inner being, universe, or whatever word helps you find it.

Loving yourself feels good. Loving yourself restores you. Loving yourself answers the questions you been turning over ad infinitum on your own.

Loving yourself lets God in.

And then there is no difference between loving yourself and being loved by God. The love is God’s, but it is up to you to allow it, accept it, let it in where it might upset decades of careful strategies and contingency plans.

There’s an obvious connection between loving ourselves and trusting God. We need to believe it’s safe to let our guard down; we need to trust that God will never hurt us; we need to trust that love is everything we are wanting before we can truly allow it in.

We need to know that our fears and doubts do not come from God. We need to trust that as we finally let love in, everything will be transformed.

In the Abraham-Hicks teachings loving ourselves is not emphasised, because for most of us there’s just too much resistance. Instead we’re advised to just feel better, less bad, in every possible way, and trust that everything is working out.

But there will come a time when you can feel good not just about the things in your life but about your own self too. So don’t hurry or rush. There’s no time limit. It’s counter-intuitive, but by feeling good about anything you’re already letting more love in than if you stare grimly at the subject of “self love” and try to conquer it right now.

Trains of thought

A train of thought might sound like something you just happened to catch a ride on, but the phrase “Train of thought” originated in the 1650s, before trains (as in locomotives) were invented.

This “train” means a series or progression, from “drawing out”, or “pulling” or extending.

So when we follow a train of thought we might be actively extending it, drawing it out, or maybe just following the procession.

Whatever the metaphor, every train has a starting point and we can tell from the beginning where it’s headed.

A thought that doesn’t feel good won’t lead to anything better. Just like a real train it’s up to you if you jump on board.

If you want to feel good all day then stop focusing on thoughts that don’t feel good. Jump off before it picks up speed and find one heading in the opposite direction!

Happiness Day 18

I had a whole post prepared on bad memories come good, explaining how we can change the past by how we feel right now.

But it didn’t feel good, and I couldn’t justify continuing it, when I’d much rather write something that does feel good to me.

Writing these posts has become an opportunity to focus on how good I’m feeling and how much I’m appreciating this journey.

Focusing on happiness and feeling better is lifting up every corner of my life, and exceptions are becoming untenable.

I keep noticing subjects where I haven’t yet gone to work, and immediately looking for ways to soften and soothe those thoughts, steering gently toward less negative and then more positive feelings.

I may have further to go, but I’m enjoying the path. Each day I’m busy, and I’m learning to enjoy the busyness and energy that comes with it.

I have this feeling of anticipation, that soon there are going to be more things I enjoy each day than things I don’t enjoy.

Soon good feelings are going to outnumber negative ones. Soon allowing is going to outweigh resistance.

And then it will be just a clean-up operation, an easy victory over any remaining pockets of resistance.

I’m optimistic. I might even be more than optimistic, because I have a sense of knowing of certitude that the happiness I seek is on its way.

And this knowing is itself a source of happiness, joy at the further unfolding of my path.

Happiness Day 17

When s*** hits the fan.

I focus on feeling good. I make headway, my mood rises, I appreciate subtle and obvious changes around me.

And then something unwanted shows up. A bad mood hits me from “out of nowhere”, or an issue arises that sparks bad feelings and inner turmoil.

But over time I adapt and adjust and the conflict is resolved and…looking back, I’m changed by it.

I’m growing by facing these unwanted things and allowing the wanted instead.

And though at first it was dire and stomach-churning and dramatic and full of fear, over time and with practice the process has gotten easier.

Abraham describes it as “learning to handle contrast better”.

Not only can we learn to allow better-feeling thoughts on contrast-rich subjects, but we can also allow greater ease and comfort in the process.

We can even get to the point of appreciating contrast because it inspires the expansion and growth that is the whole point of our life here.

Let it be easy!

At first I wanted to make rapid, powerful changes to my mood and my life.

But people who have done this advise against it. Don’t be in a hurry, take it easy.

The whole point of life is to enjoy the journey. And while we might tell ourselves we are ready to go straight from utterly depressed to profoundly joyful in an instant, there’s actually a desperation and a denial of enjoyment in that pledge.

The harder you push, the more it hurts, not least because you’re used to feeling bad and so your efforts to “try harder” tend to be instinctively geared to more pain and struggle.

“Feel good” really is too easy an answer for most of us. It takes time to accept that there’s no benefit to pushing and no merit to hurting along the way.

So let it be easy! Don’t worry! The path of greatest ease is the path of least resistance and of most allowing.

There’s no rush. Don’t make it an uphill climb; the point after all is to learn how to feel better, and you can’t struggle to make that happen, earn it through suffering, or make it come faster by gritting your teeth in bitterness.